Bequette House receives TLC from volunteers
The old Bequette place is becoming new again as volunteers met Saturday, May 17, to begin its facelift by providing a new coat of paint to the exterior. The property, located adjacent to the Three Rivers Historical Museum, was purchased by the local Historical Society in December 2012.
Jessie (MacKinnon) Bequette (1906-2010) moved with her parents to Three Rivers when she was barely three years old. Her grandparents, Walter and Sarah Fry, were already settled here.
After Jessie’s father died in a house fire, Jessie’s heartbroken mother moved away. At the time, Jessie went to live with her grandparents.
Jessie’s grandfather, Walter Fry, was the first civilian superintendent of Sequoia National Park, a position he held from 1912 to 1920. As such, Jessie accompanied him on horseback during his excursions through the sprawling park.
“Some of my fondest memories are the Sequoia Park inspection tours made on horseback as a youngster in the company of Grandpa Fry,” recalled Jessie, in a memoir written by John Elliott in 1994. “Each summer, we would start up the South Fork, crossing Hockett Meadow northward via the Tar Gap trail to the Montgomery cabin in Mineral King... We returned via the Mineral King Road, which meant a visit with Grace Alles at Atwell’s Mill.”
Jessie also recalled her first trip up the Colony Mill Road, the original access road to Giant Forest in Sequoia National Park prior to the opening of the Generals Highway in 1926. She was a passenger in her grandfather’s Model T Ford, which Walter Fry had mail-ordered and then learned to drive in his rolling 40-acre pasture behind his home (near present-day Hawk Hollow Drive).
Jessie attended the former Sulfur Springs School in Three Rivers and graduated from Woodlake High School with the Class of 1924. On the last week of school, during “Senior Sneak Day” at Terminus Beach (present-day Lake Kaweah), Jessie met Woodlake alumnus Bruce Bequette, who had graduated five years earlier.
Within six months, the couple married. In the late 1920s, when Bruce went to work at Sequoia National Park, the couple built their home on a knoll along the main thoroughfare through Three Rivers.
In 1953, they built a gift shop and gas station on their property along the highway, which they operated until 1967 when Bruce died suddenly of a heart attack. The building remained unoccupied until 1975 when it was purchased by Jeanette Barton, Jane Cheney, and Nancy Campe and became Mountain Arts, a gift shop and weaving store, for the next 20 years.
Since 1997, that concrete-block building has been the home of the Three Rivers Historical Museum. Immediately down-canyon and set a little farther back from the highway is the Bequette house.
Jessie lived in the home unassisted until 1993 when she moved to Visalia to be nearer to her nieces and medical care. She and Bruce never had children.
Jessie died in Visalia on April 9, 2010.
Future plans for the home include housing additional historical memorabilia in conjunction with the Mineral King Preservation Society and using it as a public space for catered events and other gatherings.